CROSS RIVER, N.Y. – Despite losing seven seniors from last year’s 19-3 squad, John Jay wrestling coach Bill Swertfager isn’t anticipating much of a drop-off this winter.

Notable departures include team captains Phoenix Pagan and Isaac Frank, Chris Cook (All-State) and Jason Salton (All-Section).

“Losing leaders like this is always hard to overcome,” he said. “They really were able to create a wrestling family culture.”

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But Swertfager has enough faith in the overall health of the program, and how the enthusiasm of his wrestlers says plenty about this year’s chances.

“We have one of the largest teams I have had in years,” the coach boasted. “Wrestling is alive and kicking at John Jay.”

His top returner is Gavin Fiacco, wrestling in the 152-160 weight range, who reached the section finals last year. The other returning starters are Spencer Hadlock (99-106), Jake Kern (106-113), Will Kershner (120-126), Jonathan Vicente (132-138), Donald Schaus (145-152), Max Gryzmala (152-160), Jimmy Norris (160-170), Ian Gallagher (170-184), Will Stein (195), Matt Ferrer (220) and Max Andrade (285).

“I will say that we will have a very balanced lineup filled with experienced wrestlers, which make this season’s prospects very interesting,”  Swertfager said.

Wrestling experience aside, Swertfager is proud to see that returning grapplers are filling the leadership void.

“They are all working hard and setting the tone in the room for the less-experienced wrestlers, which is really nice to see,” he said.

He forecasts that eight to 10 of his kids are on track to be named All-Section and All-County.

“We have placed multiple wrestlers up at the state tournament the last five years running,” he said. “I fully expect that streak not to end this year.”

As a team, the coach is also setting the bar high.

“Our goals are always to win the league, win the dual meet championship, and win the sectional championship,” Swertfager said.

Either way, Swertfager predicts John Jay will be among the top Section 1 finishers and doesn’t back down from high expectations.

“It is our job to do everything we can to help our wrestlers hit their goals and dreams,” he concluded.